Shohei Otani can't stay healthy as MLB rumors continue to swirl

Shohei Otani could miss up to a month with a hamstring injury. (Getty)
Shohei Otani could miss up to a month with a hamstring injury. (Getty)

Japanese star Shohei Otani is often referred to as this generation’s Babe Ruth. That’s because the 22-year-old superstar is making his case to be baseball’s best two-way player since ‘The Babe,” starring as a pitcher and a power-hitting outfielder in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see Otani at anything close to full strength early in 2017. He’s gone through quite a struggle to stay on the field due to an assortments of injuries, and those ailments are now threatening to sidetrack his season.

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Otani was originally sidelined by a right ankle injury, which first occurred during last fall’s Japan Series. That ailment kept him from participating in the World Baseball Classic. When his ankle soreness injury lingered into the regular season, Otani was restricted from pitching and limited to designated hitter duties.

Perhaps he should have remained off the field completely, because the Japan Times is now reporting Otani suffered a significant hamstring injury on Saturday, which could sideline him for one month.

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters designated hitter and ace pitcher was trying to beat out an infield single in the first inning of a loss to the Orix Buffaloes and limped off the field.

He had the leg iced and walked to the team bus after the game without assistance. The injury was diagnosed at an Osaka hospital as a left femoral biceps strain.

Otani has been unable to pitch since suffering a right ankle injury during last year’s Japan Series and aggravating it in November and examinations have revealed he is dealing with a bone spur in his right foot.

At the rate these injuries are piling up, Otani should probably focus on getting close to one-hundred percent. That would help prevent one injury from turning into another, which seems to be the case here. Given Otani’s competitive nature, we’re sure he’ll be back much sooner than that. We just hope it doesn’t lead to any other setbacks.

Otani’s skill set has piqued the interest of Major League Baseball officials. How could they not coming off an MVP season in which Otani dominated NPB by hitting .322 with 22 home runs over 382 plate appearances. As a pitcher, Otani has a produced a 2.49 ERA over four seasons, which cements his viability as a two-way player.

There’s long been speculation about when he’ll make the jump to sign with an MLB team. Those rumors were fueled even more on Friday, as conflicting reports debated whether Otani stated his intentions to sign with an MLB team following the 2017 season during an interview with “60 Minutes.”

It all makes for interesting conversation, but the primary focus for Otani should be getting healthy.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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